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Deadly Nightshade (1953)
Complex but Compelling
Talk about frying pans and fires, this British slice of intrigue proves a heckofa jump. Actor Jones plays a dual role, first as an escaped criminal (Barlow), second as a country gentleman (Mathews). Barlow seeks out his double, Mathews, hoping he can impersonate him to escape the law. But can he, there are so many little tip-offs to give his act away. Then too, threatening ironies abound, especially when a ship explodes off-shore. For an hour run-time, it's a complex storyline, probably too much, especially with the foreign agent subplot. Nonetheless, the suspense is compelling, while Jones delivers a really understated turn that serves to emphasize the twists and turns. But you may need a scorecard to keep up with all the men in suits who come and go. At the same time, nobody is paricularly likable, including Barlow and Mathews and the suits. That's always a risk for a commercial product, one that Hollywood seldom took, its audience then having no one to root for. So, a pat on the back for the Brits. Anyway, it's a fairly nifty little import, unpredictable and atmospheric, with dialogue my American ears could understand. (In passing-- to me Jones bears a strong facial resemblance to American Kirk Douglas, while luscious actress Zena Marshall could pass for a British-style Ava Gardner. See what you think.)
No, No, Nanette (1940)
Looks like RKO was showcasing lead actress Neagle. She's in almost every frame, trying hard, all bounce and giggles as aging ingenue Nanette. Trouble is she may be trying too hard without let-up. Then too, the airy farce is itself trying too hard, almost frantic in its machine gun editing and pacing. Too much spark speeds by without time to digest or to maybe even enjoy. The rapid-fire also undercuts a good chance to dig into a stellar cast of supporing players, like Pitts, Arden, and Gilbert. Nonetheless, there are compensations, such as occasional snappy dialogue, women's hat stabbers, and a sexy character named Sonyabich (How'd they get that one by the censors). Anyway, had the pacing slowed without trying to crowd in so much, along with more and better musical numbers, the musical farce might have scored, instead of speeding its way into movieland obscurity.
Maybe a TV Dinner Would Be Safer
Fairly suspenseful half-hour. Newspapers indicate a poisoner is on the loose in the city with a graveyard of victims. Good thing Truex and Field are a prosperous married couple with a live-in cook, but then Field, a frustrated amateur actress, starts feeling nauseous. Good thing hubby's there to look after her, while Roache, the cook, towers over them, but is it protectively. Soon Field recovers, oddly though, Truex starts getting sick. Roache acts harmless enough, still Truex finds a can of arsenic in the back of the cupboard. Meanwhile the cops still haven't caught the poisoner. So what's going on.
Note the married couple's twin beds, nonetheless it's Hollywood 1949 and the Code does prevail. Also, catch the period hats of the ladies in the railway car. Looks like French surrealist Dali might have designed them. Anyway, it's a good guessing-game entry whose title 'Suspicion' carries some irony as the climax shows.
Suspense: Goodbye New York (1949)
First-Rate First Show
Excellent performance from actress Mundy carries the entry. She's all nervous energy and darting eyes. So where will hubby get money to keep them afloat and in their shabby apartment. Good thing their bonding amounts to more than just being married. But who is that sinister stranger trailing them as they flee the city. That opening scene of Mundy alone in a passenger car is a grabber that sets the stage, along with some good touches such as the rollerskating girl down a NY city street or the guy grabbing someone else's newspaper. But then such quality could be expected from the likes of radio writer Woolrich and Hitchcock TV director Stevens. Nonetheless, production date is Jan., 1949, the very earliest days of TV, so I wasn't expecting anything as accomplished as this ace production. My only, complaint is the very last shot. But even with it, a high quality new show has clearly premiered.
Tajna Nikole Tesle (1980)
Time Well Spent
I'm certainly no expert on Tesla, which is one reason I tuned in- (There's an irony here that I'll explain in a footnote). Initially I was dubious about tuning in since the production crew was full of Slavic names that led me to think I would have to put up with subtitles. Nonetheless, I'm really glad I went ahead anyway. Of course I can't make comparisons with any other Tesla document, as other reviewers do. But, whatever the case, in the movie Tesla, the man, comes across as an emotionless, unsociable personality, suggesting that maybe he's in steady contact with a somewhere else. Of course, given the depth of his thinking that was perhaps the case. At the same time, he appears to harbor a deep sadness over his family and boyhood days in Croatia (I believe). Anyway, his movie persona comes across as enigmatic at best, though understandably boring to many viewers. Nonetheless, the rivalries and relations with such giants of his time as Edison, J.P. Morgan, and Westinghouse are fascinating, to say the least, lending the film real interest.
The production recreates the time period well, the costuming, the street scenes, the electronic gizmos. Then too, there's Orson Welles resting comfortably as millionaire financier J. P. Morgan, along with the always reliable Strother Martin as supportive entrepreneur George Westinghouse. So there are familiar Hollywood figures among the cast. And though it's underwritten, the clean, low-cost threat that Tesla's alternating electrical current poses to higher-cost dirty energy, such as coal and oil, illuminates an ongoing problem that's mounted into a current day crisis. I had no idea the energy rivalry went back a hundred years or more. All in all, there's much food for thought here, so it's a movie well worth taking in for both Tesla afficianadoes and novices like me.
(Footnote- I was born and reared in Colorado Springs where, as the film indicates, Tesla coducted many of his experiments. For years we lived on Nob hill from which Tesla apparently conducted short-range experiments eastward onto the great plains. Then for one summer I worked in the summit house atop Pikes Peak where the genius apparently conducted longer range experiments. My experience was in the 1940's and 50's, and believe it or not, I'd never heard during that period of Tesla or his experiments. Why, I'm not sure, given his current well-deserved recognition. But judging from my Colo. Sprgs, upbringing his renown wasn't always the case, even though he'd proven himself not that long before. So, as they say, go figure! At least, for me, it won't happen again.)
Hi Diddle Diddle (1943)
Even though I'm an old movie freak I'd never heard of the movie. I checked Maltin's Classic Movie Guide before catching the flick on the internet. Maltin didn't like it, so I wasn't expecting much. But, boy, was he wrong! It's a delightful chuckle-fest with a load of imagination, double entendre, and ditzy fast-moving plot. Okay, I can understand some folks finding it too silly. Still, for folks willing to move with the ditz it's a genuine novelty. So, can inventive Menjou gyp rascal Hepburn out of big bucks so as to pay back sailor son O'Keefe and new bride Scott before O'Keefe gets shipped out to fight the war. After all, Hepburn gypped Scott's mother Burke so, as the saying goes, what goes around, etc.
The result is a rapid-fire bang-around that couldn't bore a centipede. And catch the animated wallpaper, the playing to the camera, and songstress Haver singing even while she eyeballs her own performance. No realism here. Anyway, it's 1943 and I'll bet all those brave nervous guys in uniform got 70-minutes of sheer escape thanks to the enveloping results. Meanwhile, here's my 2001 salute to the cast,crew, producer and director. All in all, the flick's a low-budget sleeper, while Maltin needs to go stand in a corner.
(In passing- the famous German composer Wagner is somewhat mocked in the film. I expect that was a shot at the Nazis and their favorite composer. After all, it is the height of WWII.)
The Great Man: W.C. Fields (2005)
Okay Compilation of Screen Comedian's Career
Documentary retrospective on the iconic comic's early life and later film career. Starting out from poverty, then developing into a rather amazing juggler, the comedic aspect of his act soon took over, transitioning to film shorts, and then to those well-known features. Together they established his now legendary status. There's little of his personal life except for brief reference to his later alcohol problems. Oddly there's no mention of his 46-year marriage to Harriet Hughes or of any possible Hollywood romancing. Instead, the narrative consists almost strictly of screen career, including the notorious straddling scene from The Dentist (1932). Also included are snippets of his many co-stars, including Charlie Chaplin, and Fields' perfect female counterpart Mae West. Then too are several snippets showing how his legendary misanthropy carried over off screen, as well. All in all, it's an entertaining if none too revealing compilation for both fans and non-fans alike.
King of the Zombies (1941)
Moreland Amuses Amid A Muddle
It's a bulgy-eyed Moreland showcase. Too bad his stereotyped comedic character is now so neglected. His jittery, feets-don't-fail-me-now, schtick remains funny as heck, as funny as any jittery white counterpart. Here, his initial encounter with a spectral Leigh Whipper (Momba) remains a good scary hoot.
I gather the flick started off as straight horror (IMDB) but then inserted a comedic thread for commercial reasons. At the same time, however, the humor undercuts the horror part, which also fails to generate needed suspense or much horror, though the big, icy zombies do produce a scary jolt. Thus the movie succeeds more as comedy than as horror despite the title, the story itself remaining an impossible muddle. Then too, actor Henry Victor manages only a flattened Bela Lugosi as the zombie mastermind. Too bad Monogram couldn't get the real thing as they apparently tried (IMDB). And what's this with the brief, muddled sub-plot about an abducted US Navy Admiral. I guess the studio was aiming at 1941 relevancy by anticipating a coming World War II. On the other hand, good thing girlish Woodbury's around to compensate for all the ugly guys. And how about the sweetly charming Theresa Harris as the sneaky cook and zombie traffic director. Anyway, in my little book, the flick's mainly for fans of the incomparable Moreland whose comedy schtick continues to amuse, politically incorrect or not.
Angry, White and American (2017)
Informative, but Limited
White anger amounts to an explosive issue of our time. As subject matter, it's broad in scope while Younge has only an hour to crowd in the material. Then too, I wonder how willing White respondents were to level with a Black interviewer, a pertinent unaddressed factor. Along the hour length thread, host Gary Younge strings out a series of separate interviews with White spokespeople, business owners and ordinary citizens, along with intersectional travels mainly from north to south.
All in all, the thread results in fairly representative citizen opinion among growing White frustrations over race, culture, and the economy. Black man Younge is confrontational with only one interviewee, namely leading White separatist Richard Spencer, which seems understandable given Spencer's reputation. Otherwise, Younge asks probing questions without arguing those he might disagree with. Chief among the opininions are growing White concern with working class decline, increasing dependency on opioid drugs, and the diminishing percentage of Whites among the general population. Generally these opinions are phrased in non-partisan political manner though Trump is often mentioned as a figure of White hope. Anyway, it's a worthwhile hour without being anything special, the responses probably reaffirming what most concerned folks already know. Nonetheless, for those less informed, it's likely a good introduction to a leading challenge of our time.
Navy Blues (1937)
Who would think an algebra book could cause so much trouble. But it does, especially for our four roughouse ship jockeys. What great sailors the actors make from budding Romeo (Purcell as sailor Rusty) to muscled dimwit Biff (Hymer), along with serious-minded Chips (Sawyer) and tag-along Gateleg (McMahon). Why bother with a Navy when this roughouse bunch shows they can stumble through any kind of foreign threat, especially with the versatile Hymer who steals the show. Good thing there's lovely actress Brian to relieve our eyes from all these ugly guys. Her conversion from plain-Jane librarian to romantic eye-candy is a compelling one that fits right in.
The flick's first part is mainly comedic, while the second tries to serious-up without losing the amusing aspects. Watch the guys get involved with a murky foreign scheme aimed at an assassination. But can they stop it since no one can figure out just who long-time buddy Rusty really is! (Avoid the IMDB summary which for some reason is book length and gives away the suspenseful plot points.) Of course, the 68-minutes is hardly Oscar bait, but does remain humorously entertaining despite the passing decades. All in all, the result's a testament to the enduring skills of one of Hollywood's lowest budget studios, Republic. So give it a try.
(In passing- Too bad both Purcell and Hymer passed away at relatively young ages. Nonetheless, for a chuckle, check out IMDB's Trivia that reports on a defiant Hymer's revenge on Columbia's arrogant chieftain Harry Cohn. It's a gasser-- or something like that.)
Touring A Chamber Of Horrors
Fascinating, fast-moving chronological account of Holmes' grisly murder career from early years to final reckoning. The narrative's a mix of vintage photographs, drawings, location shots, and filmic recreations; along with voice-over narration and biographical commentary. Together, they both astonish and entertain. My one negative are those instances when it would be good to know if the shots were authentic or recreated. And get a load of his 'castle of horrors' outfitted with torture devices and disposal vats aplenty-- death chambers unequaled by even the scariest horror flicks.
Anyway, Holmes appears an unusual serial killer, at least in my little book. His pleasure in killing appears to not so much with a laying of hands on his victims, ala' Jack The Ripper, but rather with death itself. That may be the result of a psychopathy embedded in his training with cadavers. Then too, he was also something of an entrepreneur and swindler as the narrative makes clear. No doubt, his pleasant, unthreatening demeanor helped secure these schizophenic designs.
I like that the flick includes his own ruminations on a murderously grisly life as he awaits the gallows. Though his confessions alter, probably according to mood, I suspect the claim that he was born with Satan at his side is close to the truth as he sees it. That way he's absolved of guilt. But what a horror his life is. So I wouldn't recommend watching the grotesqueries before dinner or before bed. Still, his tale remains a part of our bleakest annals of crime.
Communicating From Afar
Empty rooms are not always empty. So a voice-over at movie's beginning tells us, while the remainder shows why . Sure, on the surface, the flick's something of a weepie, but certain undercurrents are imaginative enough to distinguish the emotional parts. Old man Rollo is enchanted by his relationship with adopted sister Lark. Note her name as she ascends through life to escape Rollo's tyrannically cruel sister Selina. For the adopted little girl, growing up with Selina, Rollo, and their family remains a struggle. As time progresses, these relationships become tangled, especially so as others and wartime enter the picture. Still she and Rollo are drawn to one another despite interferences. Now, late in life, Rollo and his beloved Lark seemingly communicate spiritually from afar. So, what's the full story behind this evolution of enchantment.
The saga is told in flashback, though the transitions from one time period to another are sometimes hard to pick up on. Nonetheless, it's a Goldwyn production, slickly done and persuasively acted, especially by a glowering Jane Meadows as the mature Selina. And that's along with stars Wright and Niven who deliver persuasive turns as the mature Lark and Rollo, respectively. Also, shouldn't overlook little Gigi Perreau as the abandoned young Lark. Her pitifully wounded expression when she's taken in by the family is heartrending, especially as a youthful Selina immediately asserts her cruel domination. Note too, Perreau's subtle chin quiver on first meeting as she senses what's in store.
At first I thought the romance between Pax (Granger) and Grizel (Keyes) was intended to compensate for Lark's and Rollo's. You know, one of those crowd pleaser romances producers add so the audience can go home happy. But here, it's not. Instead it adds to the underlying theme of the heart ethereally leading the way if only we will listen, especially during wartime as in the movie.
All in all, it's a rewarding, if complex, drama of relationships over time and what can be gleaned from them. So pick up on it if you can.
Million Dollar Kid (1944)
Laughs With A Serious Side
One of the milder Kids cut-ups from that generally hilarious series. There're still chuckles aplenty from the trademark fractured grammar to the slappy roughhousing. As usual, Gorcey and Hall shine in their comical roles, though Hall trades more slams with Herbie (Stone) than with Gorcey-- Stone acting and looking like goofus Curley from The Three Stooges. My favorite part is with the brassy, blonde Iris Adrian as cheap floozie Mazie. She's a perfect female counterpart to the crack-up boys. I wish they had more scenes together, the comedic potential is certainly there.
Still, there's more serious plotting to the story than the usual comedic throw-aways. Unfortunately, however, the serious side doesn't always blend well with the usual nonsense humor. Still, the non-comedic side is understandable since 1943 was war time, so things had to serious up a bit. Note the close relationship between the wealthy, non-comical Cortland family and the comical poor-boy East-siders. That's likely a touch of needed class solidarity during those trying times when such was needed. At the same time, I expect that also accounts for the Kids becoming self-proclaimed 'do-gooders', a departure from their usual 'just a bunch of tough guys' behavior. That too's understandable given the overall need for not only class solidarity but national solidarity, as well. However, these serious sides don't always complement the kind of throw-away humor that elevated the series to sheer escapist entertainment.
Despite this sober side, fans can't help but be amused by the priceless lunacy of stars Hall and Gorcey-- always a sure bet. So, catch it up anyway. (In passing-- I couldn't help noticing a surprising resemblance between actor Durand (Dave), a striped sweater gang member, and a young Marlon Brando. See what you think.)
My Foolish Heart (1949)
On one level, the movie's a weepie, certainly Hayward does a lot of sorrowful eyes. On another, however, it's a complex film about human emotion and perhaps the hand of fate, (the lovers' initial meeting, the runway accident). And that's along with a rather surprise ending that concludes some narrative suspense. It's a Goldwyn Production so the scenes, script, and casting are well mounted with no evidence of studio sets. Basically the story's told in flashback as Eloise (Hayward) tracks back why she won't allow husband Lew (Smith) to get wed-lock daughter Ramona in a divorce settlement. That's because Eloise keeps the real father's identity a secret. Hayward's showcased throughout in effective fashion that eventuated in an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Also, Andrews as Walt, Eloise's true love, also gets a lot of featured screentime.
Note how the word "pregnant" or even its many softer synonyms are not used during this Production Code period, even though Eloise's condition is central to the plot. Instead, we have to infer from very subtle hints that she's actually pregnant. Still, the period censorship may oddly add to the film's overall emotional complexity. I guess my only gripe is the overextended courtship between Walt and Eloise. To me it looks like Hayward and Andrews were being showcased for bigger star status by Goldwyn.. That wouldn't be unusual for an industry that promotes rising box-office attractions, sometimes at the expense of narrative pacing. (In passing-- Too bad the deft performer Andrews remains an underrated actor as shows here.)
Anyway, along with an interesting undercurrent, the flick's better than most weepies, while Hayward shows a more vulnerable side than usual. Then too, the ending is not the usual movie cliche. So there are worthy compensations, even for guys.
False Pretenses (1935)
It's Money That Counts
Engaging little flick thanks mainly to utterly charming Irene Ware as Mary, a pretty waitress with aspirations. Too bad actress Ware's career was shortened apparently by disgust with the business (IMDB). Here she really shines as she and her scheming mentor Kenneth (Blackmer) conspire to get her an upper-class rich husband and pocket the proceeds. But that means waitress Mary has to refine her plebeian ways, which she does thanks to tutelage from sophisticated Miss Milgram (Beaumont). Naturally complications arise when affairs of the heart intercede once Mary enters the world of proper manners and gilded parlors, which supplies more story interest.
I really like the snappy dialogue from the first part, a tribute to screenwriter Adamson. Once things complicate, however, the chuckles subside. Still, viewer concern in how things will turn out remains. And get a load of brawny O'Reilly (Gargan) in the first part as he turns Mary's cafe into one big temper tantrum- Guess I'll be eating at home now! One thing for sure: there's no eye candy for the ladies. Blackmer and Hopton are middle-aged and average looking, maybe appropriate for their roles but certainly not the usual leading man eye-catchers.
All in all, it's an entertaining little flick, maybe not the most original premise, but still well-done. And too bad about Miss Ware's brief career. Her talent here really shows.
These Three (1936)
Plot- Two women college graduates turn an old house wreck into a girls school where both can teach. Trouble is an obnoxious student undercuts the school with wicked gossip. At the same time, both are stuck on the same man, a doctor.
Oh my gosh! Talk about nasty kids. Not since little Patty McCormack in the Bad Seed (1956) have I seen such a wicked little girl. Granville dominates the film as school girl Mary (note the ironic Biblical name), with a penetrating stare, a cunning manner, and a brutal core. If kids were honored with an Oscar, she deserved one. On the other hand, there's a persuasively appealing Martha Mae Jones as Mary's abused victim. In fact I was almost crying with her. Between them, they dominate the film's dramatic effect. Surprisingly, the two marquee actresses, Hopkins & Oberon, are more recessive, supplying two sides of a romantic triangle with McCrea as the male third part. The triangle, however, is dominated by the gossipy part, though the two do intersect at points. Meanwhile, in the background, producer Goldwyn has mounted an impressive production, especially that rat-in fested mansion in the first part.
Speaking of house wrecks, I like the way the movie shows the extensive labor involved in restoring it as a school where Oberon and Hopkins can teach. That way, we get a sense of tragedy when the two lose their hard-won investment. Still, I wonder how McCrea's doctor finds the time to do all the repair work he does. If the flick has a weak point, I think it's McCrea's who's an attractive leading man but much too foot-loose for a plausible doctor's role. All in all, his part appears poorly conceived. On the other hand, who better to get a commanding grip on nasty little Mary than the Wicked Witch of the West, which the great Margaret Hamilton does.
All in all, it's a compelling movie thanks mainly to the two over-arching young actresses. Together, they turn the work into a memorable look at the potential effects of errant gossip. So give it a try.
Typically amusing entry in the iconic 50's series. Betty's inspired by poets to pursue the importance of kindness and sharing. So she's moved to begin a niceness campaign with onery brother Bud. Naturally, he can't figure out the sudden sweetness from a sister he's always traded jabs with. Thus, he suspects a hidden motive behind her change.
First part centers on Betty and her humorous efforts at being kind to a doubting Bud, showcasing actress Donahue's charm. The second part centers on Bud thinking he's discovered Betty's hidden ruse. Trouble is he's risking Betty's chances at a university scholarship with his doubts about her honesty. And catch that near hilarious massage Bud gets in the steam room. I hope he was paid double. To me it's the funniest part of the 30-minutes. All in all, it's a fun time-passer with the Andersons. And, oh yes, someone please tell the caption writer that the poet's name is 'Wordsworth' not 'Woodsworth'.
Money Means Nothing (1934)
Okay programmer from budget-conscious Monogram. The first half includes a lot of low-brow humor, while the second half gets more dramatic. Julie (Shea) is a pretty but naive daughter of a wealthy family. However, she's unhappy with their rigid ways and wants to strike out on her own. Trouble is she has a sheltered girl's view of money thinking it's not important at all. So when she falls in love with working class guy Ken (Ford), she doesn't care that he's soon unemployed. After all, money isn't important; love will get them by. But then, he can't get a job (it is Depression era 1934), so she's due to learn one of life's important lessons the hard way.
Actress Shea's a good choice for the spunky air-headed daughter. Pretty, but not glamorous, she adds lower key spark to the often over-the-top humor. Ford's okay as a truck driver, but his manner and appearance made me wonder how Julie could get so attached. Too bad the Green's (Kennedy & Turner) are boisterously over-done, but I guess it works at a certain level when they get a comeuppance. What sort of interested me is how the premise could be turned into an intriguing drama of an upper-class girl learning the brute realities of working-class life. Here that gets an overlay of comedy; nonetheless, the dramatic potential is there.
Anyway, director Cabanne keeps the script moving, so you won't be bored no matter the flaws.
Basically I agree with reviewer Hafer- the episode starts off well but fails to follow through in either persuasive or suspenseful manner. However, the script does try to justify Boyer and wife's disbelief of their little girl's claim about a man in the cellar by stating that she's prone to imaginary friends (in a tree, for example). Thus the parents shrug off her claim about a man in the cellar. But if he's real, will he harm them; he may have reason since Boyer had a violent man institutionalized. Too bad this aspect isn't played up more. Anyway, Washburn's terrific as the disturbed little girl, while familiar faces from the time- Doucette, Gerstle, Towne- turn up in supprting roles. And, oh yes, Gerstle no doubt picks up the easiest paycheck of his first-rate career- check him out at the end.
A Stretch but with Compensations
Too bad the IMDB synopsis gives away the source of suspense since watching the episode without the spoiler does generate some suspense. So why is the Countess (Raymond) coyly cozying up to the skin doctor aboard a trans-Atlantic ocean liner. Is it seduction? Maybe so since she invites him for a stay at her French mansion. But is it seduction or is it a mysterious something else. Suspense mounts. Anyway, darn IMDB for giving the upshot away.
Actress Raymond was a particularly good casting choice with her finely sculpted facial features, while Boyer excels as the crafty doctor. Sure, the narrative is a stretch, but does remain an unusual one. Also it's a talky 30-minutes so don't look for any action. Still, all the early talk about the 'heart' as a solution to inner conflict works to illuminate the episode's climax. Anyway, one way or the other the compensations remain, so take a chance. And, oh yes, check out IMDB's biography of actress Raymond for a slice of grisly real-life irony.
No Favor to Twelvetrees
All in all, the flick's something of a bore, at least for guys. Millie (12trees) gets to whine, plead, and sob for nearly 90-minutes. In fact, it's something of a lachrymose showcase for the actress who's in about every scene. Too bad, she doesn't get to laugh or show much range of emotion.
Plotwise--- Once she divorces her cruel ex-husband and entrusts their baby to her mother's care, the pretty Millie bounces from one high-class boyfriend to the next. Throughout events, however, she remains stubbornly independent. Maybe that's because she's getting even with guys generally for the wrong done her; or maybe she's just too scared of being wronged again since her men friends appear habitual two-timers. Anyway, I wish there were some suspense or something beside the serial encounters to keep me involved. But unfortunately what there is only came during the brief non-cliched climax which did surprise me. Too bad the film as a whole didn't show similar imagination.
One minor note- maybe I missed something, but I couldn't figure out the relationship between Helen and Angie (Tashman & Blondell). At first I thought they were hookers trying to recruit Millie into the trade. But apparently not. Then I thought they might be lovers given their seemingly mutual attachment. Whatever the case, see what you think. After all, this is pre-Code 1931.
In sum, this is one of those instances where the cast clearly exceeds the material. I'm guessing Radio Pictures was trying to promote 12trees, while the screenplay came in second. If so, too bad.
Clancy Street Boys (1943)
Fast and Funny
Hawk-nose Huntz Hall dressed up as an ugly girl-- I didn't know whether to laugh or barf. It's a good gag-filled East Side Kids fun-fest. Seems Mugs' (Gorcey) mom is in trouble. She's pretended to have a bunch of offspring boys and a girl to impress a rich Texan who thinks they're all in the same family. That means getting Mugs's roughhouse gang to pretend to be her civilized offspring. It also means Glimpy (Hall) gets to play the one girl if, that is, he can keep his skirt down. More complications arise when a con-man tries to kidnap the rich Texan, a sub-plot they could have left out. Anyway, the gags fly fast, as when Mugs mangles his grammar in hoodlum malaprop style. And more chuckles ensue as the Texas cowboy and his cowgirl daughter culture clash with the New York toughies-- after all, why take a taxi through city traffic when a horse will do.
Notable for its time is Black actor Morrison playing Scruno. Though non-white, he fits right in with the loony antics and is not parodied any more than the others. He's simply one of the boys. Then too, see if you can catch the brief instant near the end where Gorcey and Hall appear to glance at the camera, thus breaking character-- perhaps sloppy editing. Also, I'm not sure about the title, Cherry Street Boys, since the rival gang is peripheral to the story itself. Likely, that was for commercial reaons. Nonetheless, the cheapo's a fun filled hour, featuring one of Hollywood's most enduring series, so don't pass it up
Pajama Party (1964)
Plug in all the sheer nuttiness and swinging swim-suits and there's enough energy to light up a big city. Sure, a teen flick like this is purely a matter of taste, but even geezers like me can enjoy one more trip down memory lane to the beach. One thing for sure, the screen never drags. Got a dull spot in the script-- no problem, just dump it for another butt swinging marathon. Of course, the kids supply the looks, while the old timers like Keaton, Lanchester, and White supply the chuckles. Heck, there's even a cameo from yesteryear's glamour queen Dorothy Lamour. And is that the loony Don Rickles as a head Martian-- talk about your perfect type casting. And, oh my gosh, is that Frankenstein's Bride as the sweetly affable Auntie. Hard to believe, but Lanchester could be one scary villianess. Got doubts, just ask Boris Karloff. If there's a movie soft spot, it's probably Kirk who seems too bland too fit in as lead. Still who cares-- the plot is just a coat rack to hang the nonsense on. Anyway, here's a geezer's butt-quiver nod to those carefree days before Vietnam eclipsed PP's sunny fun.
The Medicine Man (1930)
Benny's Low-Key Debut
Benny's recognizable even at this early age, however there's none of his trademark understated humor. Looks like he was intended here as a leading man; if so, he underplays perhaps to a fault. In short, the low-key no doubt worked perfectly for the comedian but not for the actor. Good thing his career converted. Then too, movie-wise, whatever spark there is comes from leading lady Bronson whose sweetness shines even as the abused daughter of brutal father Goltz who leather-straps his kids for most any misbehavior. No, this is not a comedy as the Benny name would imply. Instead he runs a traveling medicine show that comes to Bronson's small town where their mutual attraction soon develops. But what's her tyrannical father going to do since he's already picked out an over-age finance for her. That's the plot crux. Still, there're several points to note.
The character Gus, Vadim Uranoff, is a highly unusual one both in looks and behavior. As a handyman he lurks in the background agonizing over Goltz' cruelty, a strangely craggy figure too timid to interfere. Also, note that despite their suspect reputation, Benny's medicine show is made relatively law-abiding, except for the two con men who operate apart from Benny. That way the hero's shown to be morally upright despite a suspect livelihood, and thus someone qualified to identify with. Note too the surprise climax, a case where law appears to conflict with morality though the shooter is not made clear. Still, it's a surprise and a clear case of pre-Code ambiguity that would soon be disallowed by Code censors. Anyway, for fans of comedian Benny, the flick may be disappointing. Nonetheless, there are unusual compensations.
Could Use A Rewrite
Certainly not among the best of the series, but does generate some suspense. Niven does a good job as the troubled Greenwich Village artist, whose long-time model turns up murdered in his studio. Cops suspect him but his prestigious reputation keeps them at bay. Being impressed with his own ability, Niven decides to track down the killer himself. A few suspects turn up but not conclusively. But who's the mysterious woman who suddenly turns up to save him from a savage street beating. Clearly, they're attracted to one another, yet his recurring memory lapses follow the beating, keeping her somewhat confused. So what's going on here and who's the murderer.
The rather loose narrative stretches at times, such as in the placement of the dead girl's ring. Also Camden is a little too bland in her ambivalent role that doesn't help. Nonetheless, Niven carries the 30-minutes in compelling fashion, along with a rather surprise ending. All in all, the episode shows the series' generally high quality even with a lesser entry such as this.